Magazine Article | May 1, 2004

RFID Helps Plant Growers Track Costly Carts

Source: Business Solutions Magazine
Business Solutions, May 2004

A costly problem plagued companies selling plants and flowers to large retail chains such as Lowe's and Wal-Mart. The growers were routinely losing the metal carts used to deliver their plants to the retailers. The carts weigh 300 to 400 pounds and cost up to $400 each. Retailers use the carts to store and display the plants and are supposed to return them to the growers once all of the plants are sold. These missing carts cost a typical grower about $30,000 per year for replacement carts. Plus, growers sometimes found themselves without enough carts to make deliveries and had to scramble to find missing carts. Tracking methods such as manually recording ID numbers, bar codes, and welded nameplates proved to be ineffective and time consuming.

To solve this problem, systems integrator Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) (Columbus, OH) developed an automatic tracking solution, called KartKeeper, which uses RFID (radio frequency identification) technology to connect carts to greenhouse management software (i.e. PlantPartner, Microsoft Great Plains, and Quickbooks). The KartKeeper system uses Texas Instruments' (Dallas) Tag-it 13.56 MHz smart labels, custom-designed antennas, and a software suite that tracks and reports on cart movement.

Smart Tags On Carts Cut Losses
The smart tags, which cost $4 each, are affixed to each cart. As the carts are loaded into delivery trucks, they pass over a custom fiberglass antenna built into the floor at each loading dock. The antenna is connected to a reader at a networked workstation. Each workstation/reader can accommodate two loading docks. As each cart is loaded into a truck, its unique ID is read by the reader and communicated to the KartKeeper software.

The KartKeeper system automatically tracks the retail store location of each cart and logs it back into inventory as it is returned to the grower. If a cart is not returned in a given period of time, such as 30 days, the grower can contact the appropriate retailer to determine the cart's location and ask for it to be returned. Using the KartKeeper system, the growers have almost eliminated their annual cart replacement costs.